US Donors Support Rebuilding of Notre Dame Cathedral
Rich French business people have promised hundreds of millions of euros to rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Catholic religious building that partly burned.
But so far, most of the money to fix it, is coming from the U.S.
The fire on April 15 destroyed the roof, or top, and caused its famous spire to fall. French President Emmanuel Macron promised to rebuild the cathedral.
However, Catholic Church and business officials say the big donors have yet to pay anything toward repairing the famous building.
"The big donors haven't paid. Not a cent," said Andre Finot, an official at Notre-Dame. "They want to know what exactly their money is being spent on and if they agree to it before they hand it over." He said they do not want it to go just to pay employee wages.
Instead, donations are coming mostly from Americans through the aide group The Friends of Notre Dame de Paris.
This month, it is giving about four million dollars to rebuild the cathedral. The money will help pay for wages for the 150 workers who are helping to repair the building.
Some of France's richest and most powerful families and companies promised nearly one billion dollars in the hours and days after the fire.
But Finot said that none of that money has been seen as the donors wait to learn about the reconstruction plans and argue over contracts.
In fact, work has been continuing for weeks, day and night. Workers are clearing poisonous dust from an estimated 300 tons of lead and other materials that made up the roof. The French Parliament has been debating changes to laws and labor rules to speed up the restoration and make it possible to pay the workers clearing the wreckage.
While they debate, charity groups are giving money to help pay workers' wages.
The Friends of Notre Dame de Paris was started in 2017. Its president, Michel Picaud says that 90 percent of the donations it has received have come from American donors. Picaud just returned from a trip to New York to raise money.
"Americans are very generous toward Notre Dame and the monument is very loved in America. Six out of our 11 board members are residents in the U.S.," Picaud said.
Macron promises work done in five years
French President Macron has said the work should be completed within five years. But critics have said that time limit is too ambitious.
Olivier de Challus is one of the cathedral's top guides and architecture experts. He said that one of the reasons the rich French donors have not given their money yet, is that there is still so much that is unknown about the construction work. He said experts are trying to find out how much damage the fire did to the ancient stone, and whether the structure is safe.
"It doesn't matter that the big donors haven't yet paid because the choices about the spire and the major architectural decisions will happen probably late in 2020," he said.
He added that large amounts of money will be needed at that time.
I'm Anne Ball.